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Airport Protest, First Amendment Lawsuit Moves Forward

By: Jessica Cunnington Email
By: Jessica Cunnington Email

January 27, 2013

Is it reasonable to cause an arrest due to bizarre behavior? The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says no, and therefore moves so-called "airport stripper" Aaron Tobey's First Amendment lawsuit forward.

On Friday, the federal appeals court ruled that Tobey's claims that the Transportation Security Administration officers violated his free-speech rights and the lawsuit should proceed.

"Bizarre behavior in an airport to me is someone jumping up and down you know causing a ruckus. This was just the opposite," Aaron's father, Robert Tobey, said.

Aaron was arrested in 2010 at Richmond International Airport after stripping to his running shorts at the security checkpoint to protest the body-scanner procedure. He had the Fourth Amendment written on his chest.

The three judges were Judge Wilkinson, Judge Duncan and Judge Gregory. In a segment of the oral argument, the judges question Tobey's conduct at the airport.

"Did he ever do anything hew as told not to do, or didn't do something he was told to do?" Judge Duncan said.

"That's the beauty of being in America, you're allowed to be bizarre. You are allowed to be bizarre. What is the conduct that was against the rules?"

Aaron's father says he is incredibly proud of his son and admires him for doing what he believes is right. It's something he always taught his son. But he does say Aaron never expected this outcome.

"He thought he was going to make his protest and get on the plane, but he was willing to accept the consequences of getting arrested and going through with this."

If Tobey wins the lawsuit in the end, it would be a win for the Constitution and Aaron's beliefs and values would go to the top.

"A dialogue has started on the highest levels of government of when do we give up our liberties for safety? Whats the line that you draw?" Robert said.

The circuit court's opinion will either be appealed by the government to the entire Fourth Circuit or it will be ordered back to the U.S. District Court.


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